THE former Verne prison on Portland has officially become an Immigration Removal Centre.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the former Her Majesty's Prison (HMP) was reclassified into an IRC on Sunday, six months after it began taking in detainees.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “The Verne started taking detainees from March 24 as scheduled.”

He added that the National Offender Management System (NOMS) was operating the Verne as an IRC on behalf of the Home Office.

He said: “That came into effect on Sunday September 28.”

The spokesman said no prisoners had been at Verne since March 24.

The Home Office said that as of today (Sept 29) there were currently 266 detainees at the IRC.

The Government announced last year that The Verne would be converted into an IRC, housing 580 male detainees over 18 years old, with all prisoners being relocated.

Before the first detainees were due to arrive however, the government said it would remain a prison with the same officers in charge.

At the time Prison Service bosses insisted that it would still hold detainees and that the decision to revert to prison status was just a 'temporary measure'.

But staff said at the time they were 'very unhappy' at the late-notice announcement.